Sunday, December 31, 2017

Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot: 2017

Has anyone ever told you what “Auld Lang Syne” means? Probably not. But I will.

The words themselves are a Scottish Anglo-Gaelic* phrase meaning “old long since,“ or to put it roughly, “(for) old time’s sake.” The words of the song, sung every year at this time (and at the end of international Scout jamborees, I am told) are attributed to the Scottish poet Rober Burns in 1788, although the inspiration may be more complicated than that. So also with the tune, said to be an ancient Scottish folk melody, but also attributed to the sixteenth-century composer Davide Rizzio.

But enough about all that. Let's talk about me, and my year on this earth.

NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT

When a President of the United States is elected, a "Presidential Transition Office" is formed, to provide administrative and logistical support for both the incoming and outgoing political leadership, and also for planning the inauguration. I had the distinct honor of being assigned to provide audiovisual support for the Transition Team, which amounted to taking the official temporary portraits of most of the major cabinet appointees. That means I got to meet them.

Some were more personable than others. The general currently serving as the White House Chief of Staff noticed my Eagle Scout pin, and congratulated me (twice) and saying it was "a really big deal." I also met a former National BSA President, now the Secretary of State. (“From one Eagle to another, good luck, sir.”)

But the biggest thrill was meeting the former Governor of Texas and current Secretary of Energy, Richard Perry. He is also an Eagle Scout (Class of 1964, the last year before the service project requirement was added), and we must have spent at least ten minutes talking about our experiences in earning Scouting's highest award. Most of them spent less than ten minutes getting their picture taken, as they were generally in a rush between appointments.

That was "a really big deal" for me, obviously. I'll never forget these casual encounters in the course of my work, with men who would go on to make history.

I have undergone a transition of my own in the past decade, from being a graphic designer (or as they call it in the government, a "Visual Information Specialist," to a photographer and video producer-director (also known as an "Audiovisual Production Specialist." I had trained to be a web designer, but when they told me I wasn't going to do that after all, I noted that software applications for video editing were very similar to those of animation, and that was my foot in the door. It would seem that I exceeded all expectations, and can say upon my retirement that I won't retire as a relic of past skill sets, but as a winner who adapted to the times. My final years as a full-time professional will be my greatest. Soli Deo gloria!

That's a "really big deal" all by itself.

WHILE MY GUITAR GENTLY WEEPS

I started playing the guitar more often, after more than a decade of playing it rarely. There's a long story behind that one, mostly about life itself getting in the way. But no more. After waiting for so many years, I finally got my dream guitar. I also got a Washburn parlor guitar for playing around the house, possibly at coffeehouse gigs or open mic nights, or other places where towing a full-size axe is less than opportune.

But I still have to find the time to practice. That's why I'm keeping at least one parlor guitar on a stand right in the living room so that it can beckon me to commune with it more easily. Yeah, that's the ticket.

This has been the year following the passing of my mother, and the effect on the dynamics of the family is somewhat noticeable. We will always be a family, but with the coming of age of a new generation, the siblings are more inclined to withdraw to their individual households. Mom and her sisters were always very close, and the reunions on the farm with dozens of cousins are a great memory of my childhood. I wonder how different it will be for us.

In fact, I imagine it will be this way for most, as more and more families limit themselves to one or two children, and as those children eschew the very idea of marriage when they become adults. What will the very notion of "family" mean in this world? Where will we go for the ties that bind us?

THE YEAR TURNED UPSIDE DOWN

I didn't vote for either major candidate in the most recent Presidential election. I saw more similarities than I did differences with either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. On one hand, Trump is less likely to do any serious damage to our way of governance then would Clinton, precisely because he is not a Washington insider. Clinton would be clever enough to get away with what the Founding Fathers referred to as "high crimes and misdemeanors," and she has already demonstrated her dubious skill in this respect, while Trump lacks the gamesmanship necessary to get away with much of anything.

Republicans assume they won the election. They did not. 2016 was less a case of the Republicans winning than it was the status quo losing. All the "experts" on cable news channels were absolutely convinced that Hillary Clinton was on the path to victory as the Election Day wore on, right up until the votes from Wisconsin came in. The most the "Grand Old Party" can claim for bragging rights, is that the leadership of evangelical Christians were gullible enough to back a self-admitted Hefneresque playboy to the Oval Office, who lacks the self-control necessary to bring a sense of dignity to that office. And yet, whatever can be said about him, he has already demonstrated every intention of doing what he set out to do. America knows exactly what it's getting from their forty-fifth President, and with unemployment down and consumer confidence up, he may yet prove to be a workable solution.

Now if he can just keep his foot out of his mouth, and let his Chief of Staff get the West Wing under control ...

BEING PREPARED

For more than twelve years, my service to Scouting was as a local Commissioner, which is basically a liaison function between the Boy Scouts of America as a corporation, and the local units. It used to be about helping those units, but it has become about shuffling paper, meeting quotas, and earning the local Executive officer his next bonus.

So, after a rather unpleasant encounter with one of those Executives, I gave up on ever sitting on an Eagle Board of Review, and joined a regular Scout Troop. I would only join a unit sponsored by a Catholic institution so that I would not have to deal with the recent changes in the membership policy. I was accepted by the Troop sponsored by the cathedral parish, ostensibly as a "Religious Award Counselor," but officially as an Assistant Scoutmaster. With the end of my first year, I am finally getting a taste of real Scouting, right in the trenches with the boys who need Scouting.

The nice thing about affiliating at the ground level is that you don't have to deal with the politics of adults in Scouting (and yes, there is such a thing), which helps you to remember why you actually signed up in the first place.

FAST TIMES AT SAINT BLOG’S PARISH

With the advent of the weblog, and the concept of "Catholic blogging" at the start of this century, there have been several benchmark events. 2002 saw its blossoming in the face of the scandals within the Church, both in Boston and beyond. By the end of the first decade, blogging was finally being taken seriously by traditional publishing media, and you didn't have to already be a celebrity with the latter to lead the way. With the departure of Simcha Fisher and Mark Shea from the National Catholic Register (and this is not the occasion for the details therein), we saw the waning of the phenomenon that was the "celebrity Catholic." And for several years, a disturbing byproduct of "the Francis effect" has set even faithful Catholics against one another.

More on that later as well.

WE’LL TAKE A CUP OF KINDNESS YET

I turned sixty-three years old just three days ago. And it was with this year that I began to see a light at the tunnel. It was a decision made easier with my mother passing into eternity, and the four of us discovered the extent of our inheritance. I am by no means a millionaire, and it is tied up in a portfolio of investments. We all retained the brokerage that managed it for our parents, and hopefully, this will compensate for what I was unable to do for a number of years. Now all I have to do is not screw things up.

It was the best of years, the worst of years, all in all, not just another year.

And so it goes.


* Essentially an earlier form of an English dialect, not quite the same as pure Gaelic, but with vocabulary native to Scotland. Or something.
 

Christmastide: Day 7 (Dominica Infra Octavam Nativitatis/St Sylvester)

“On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, seven swans a-swimming ...”

Feast of Saint Sylvester.

Allowing for corruptions evolving the text as described earlier, the "seven swans a-swimming" completes the first seven days being represented by birds, in honor of the seven sacraments. The song is just more than half over, and we can already see that someone obviously put a great deal of thought into it.

What do birds and sacraments have in common? We may never know, but we already know this much ...

Today, the traditional Roman calendar celebrates the Sunday Within the Octave of Christmas, while the reformed calendar celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family.

Otherwise, the date itself is the Feast of Saint Sylvester, who was Pope from January 31, 314, until his death on this day in 335. He was the first bishop of Rome to refer to himself as "Pope," or more specifically, "Father (Papa)." His reign would have occurred during that of Emperor Constantine, as well as the First Council of Nicea in 325, which composed the Nicene Creed proclaimed at Mass on Sunday. (Sylvester did not attend this council, but sent a delegation.) He is also one of the ten longest-reigning popes in history.

In present-day Germany, this day of New Year's Eve is known as "Silvester." Beverly Stevens of Regina Magazine tells us: "Okay, this is TRADITIONAL in Germany to play this clip on 'Sylvester' -- that is, New Year's Eve." The English comedian Freddie Frinton (1909-1968) is a butler in his famous "Dinner for One" scene, from the 1948 British short comedy "Trouble in the Air." Other countries know the day better by the saints name as well (such as "la Saint-Sylvestre" in France).

As for the year of our Lord, two thousand and seventeen, the clock is running out. And so it goes.
 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Christmastide: Day 6 (Die Infra Octavam/St Egwin of Evesham)

“On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, six geese a-laying ...”

Geese were among the first birds to be domesticated. As our ancestors made the transformation from hunting and gathering to settling and farming, they found they could keep a supply of them penned up, and with sufficient breeding, to supply eggs and meat for a period of time. Thus did geese emerge as a common barnyard fowl in England.

Closer to the present, Katy Sirls is an English professor at Dixie College in St George, Utah, where she teaches English classes at Dixie College. After completing her Master of Fine Arts degree in writing, with an emphasis on fiction, she published one of her academic essays.

After several months overseas, Stacia is ecstatic to return home for Christmas. It’s been too long since she’s seen her boyfriend, Luke and she longs to be in his arms again. She even has a seductive and sexy “present” planned for their first night together.

With arrangements to celebrate the holidays with Luke’s family, Stacia soon discovers her plans are going to be quite difficult to carry out. Her first night back is spent getting to know his beloved pet geese. It seems as though their night of passion will have to wait—until, that is, she discovers Luke has plans of his own.

Stacia soon finds herself following the mysterious trail of presents Luke has left her: Christmas-wrapped goose eggs, each one with a clue that will lead her to the next ... and, ultimately, to a night she’ll never forget!

Today, neither the traditional nor reformed Roman calendars commemorate a saint, and it appears only as a weekday of the Christmas season; in the case of the traditional, "De Sexta Die Infra Octavam Nativitatis Domini" ("The Sixth Day Within Octave of the Nativity of Our Lord"). However, the oldest of religious orders -- the Benedictine, Carmelite, Dominican, Franciscan, to name a few -- have their own calendars of saints particular to themselves. In addition, many countries have local celebrations on their calendars, lesser-known saints with a popular local cult of devotion.

On this day, the Benedictines remember Saint Egwin of Evesham, the late 7th and early 8th century bishop of Worchester. Born of noble blood to a royal family of the English midlands, he joined the Order of Saint Benedict, and was eventually made bishop. He was known for his protection of the widowed and orphaned, which made him very popular. He was also known for his strict enforcement of the Church's justice, and of her discipline, especially (wait for it!) priestly celibacy, which made him, well, not so popular. A canonical case was made against him, for which he traveled all the way to Rome to appeal, and win.

After seeing a vision of the Blessed Mother, and at her request, he founded Evesham Abbey, one of the great Benedictine houses of the British Isles. He died in 717, and was buried at the Abbey, after which many miracles were attributed to him. (The church in England and Wales commemorates him on January 11, the date of the transfer of his relics.)

Depicted here is the bell tower of the abbey, which is all that remains following the suppression of monasteries during the Reformation.

And so it goes.
 

Friday, December 29, 2017

Christmastide: Day 5 (St Thomas of Canterbury)

“On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, five gold rings ...”

The fifth day's gift of gold rings (or "golden rings" in some versions) refers not to gold jewelry, but to a characteristic of the ring-necked pheasant. This becomes significant later. The day after tomorrow. You'll have to wait for that.

But you don't have to wait for today's feast, which in the western Church is that of St Thomas à Becket, also known as Thomas of Canterbury, named for where he was Archbishop at the time of his death. Born around 1162, he became the confidant and High Chancellor of King Henry II of England. Then the King got the idea for Thomas, already an archdeacon, to be consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of All England. This did not have the effect for which the King had hoped. Eventually, Thomas was embroiled in conflict with Henry over the rights and privileges of the Church and was assassinated by the King's followers in Canterbury Cathedral, on this day in 1170. He was canonized less than four years later by Pope Alexander III.

This story became the subject of a stage play, and eventually the great 1964 film, Becket, starring Richard Burton as Thomas Becket and Peter O'Toole as King Henry. It won an Academy Award for Best Screenplay, and received eleven other nominations, including Best Actor (Burton and O'Toole).

Following an extensive restoration process, the original 1964 film was made available in limited theatrical re-release in 2007. It is currently available on DVD. More information is available at the website: becketthemovie.com.

And the celebration of the Nativity continues.

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It is a little-known fact that today, the Western church also celebrates the feast of an Old Testament figure, none other than King David. In the West, we rarely address Old Testament people as "Saint So-and-so," although it is quite common in the East. ("Saint Elias," for example, is a popular name for Eastern Catholic and Orthodox parishes, otherwise rendered as "Elijah.") As to "Saint David," Shawn Tribe of New Liturgical Movement provides commentary.
 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Christmastide: Day 4 (Childermas)

“On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, four calling birds ...”

Actually, they would have been referred to as "colly birds," meaning a form of blackbird. This is one of a number of lines that had become corrupted over the centuries. But enough about the song. Today is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, the infant males in Bethlehem under the age of two years, that King Herod had put to death, in the hopes of doing away with the newborn King, which he saw as a threat to his power (Matthew 2:16-18).

In this 1611 painting by Guido Reni, we see the depiction of that which fulfilled the prophecy: “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more.” (Jeremiah 31:15)

Some historians have debated whether the tale actually occurred, as the ancient historian Josephus fails to mention it, but biblical scholars tend to acknowledge its authenticity. While an ancient tradition has placed the death toll at fourteen thousand (most likely an allusion to the many atrocities committed by Herod, including the killing of his own son), given that the "little town of Bethlehem" had a population of only about one thousand at the time, the estimated number of victims has been more realistically placed at around twenty.

In Spanish-speaking countries (including, uh, Spain), as well as former colonies such as the Philippines, this is traditionally a day given to playing practical jokes, much like April Fools' Day elsewhere. The pranks are known as "inocentadas" and either the pranksters or their victims are referred to as "inocentes."

I suppose it depends on which ones you ask.

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It is also a day of remembrance for yours truly, as an entry scheduled for later today will attest. Stay tuned ...
 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Christmastide: Day 3 (St John)

“On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, three French hens ...”

“The disciple whom Jesus loved” (“ο μαθητης ον ηγαπα ο Ιησους”) was, for a time, banished under Emperor Domition to the island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea. This was before returning to Ephesus to remain for the rest of his days. John was the only one of the Twelve to die a natural death. Tradition says he lived to be nearly one hundred years old, yet it was not for want of his enemies trying. Upon an attempt to kill John by poisoning his wine, the evil substance miraculously took the form of a serpent, as it dissipated from his cup.

Here he is in a circa 1610 painting by El Greco with a look that says:

“Dude, seriously? This is the best you can do?”

Today, families can celebrate the Feast of Saint John by drinking to the health of each other, following a German tradition known as Johannissegen. Fisheaters has a recipe for mulled wine that is customary to the occasion. Before the evening meal begins, the head of the house recites the blessing over the wine, as recorded in the Rituale Romanum:

Lord Jesus Christ, Thou didst call Thyself the vine and Thy holy Apostles the branches; and out of all those who love Thee, Thou didst desire to make a good vineyard. Bless this wine and pour into it the might of Thy benediction so that everyone who drinks or takes of it, may through the intercession of Thy beloved disciple, the holy Apostle and Evangelist John, be freed from every disease or attack of illness and obtain health of body and soul. Who livest and reignest forever. (Amen.)

He then lifts his glass toward the next person (or touches the rim of his glass to theirs), saying, “I drink you the love of Saint John.” The receiver says in response, “I thank you for the love of Saint John.” The second person turns to the third, and the process is repeated all around the table. That's the long form. The short form is where all present clink their glasses together saying, “Drink the love of Saint John.” This is especially handy for young children who cannot wait to chow down.

To each his own.
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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Christmastide: Day 2 (St Stephen/Boxing Day)

“On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, two turtle doves ...”

Today is a day when I violate every principle I hold dear and consider going shopping on the day after Christmas. By now I have all the Nativity-scene ornaments that I could possibly need for the expanding collection on the tree at Chez Alexandre. And so this year's rendition is even brighter to celebrate the birth of Our Savior.

I love to show this video of the á capella group Straight No Chaser singing their own unique version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas."


Today still feels a little like Christmas, only more stores are open, bustling continued consumer spending in spite of everything. I know, some people may think that's a concession to the over-commercialization of the holiday, but as we mentioned before, it's better than pretending it's anything other than Christmas -- like some folks we know.

Today is “Boxing Day” in Canada, the UK, and other nations of the present and former British Empire. Traditionally, Christmas Day was when the master of the house would give presents to his family. On the following day, he would arrange for leftovers from his great feast to be given to his domestic staff, in boxes that they could take home. Eventually, it became customary to box other gifts as well.

For this year's musical Boxing Day selection, we feature a fan-made video of Blink 182 doing a song called (what else?) Boxing Day.

Whatever works, huh, guys?

Meanwhile, the Irish celebrate this as a national holiday, too, only as Saint Stephen's Day, honoring one of the seven deacons appointed in the Book of Acts, to assist the apostles in their ministry. He was stoned to death by the Jews -- no, not all of the Jews, just some of them, and all of those guys were Jews, alright already??? -- and so is known in the Churches of the East as the "Protomartyr," as he was the first recorded to die for the Faith. And let's not forget that "Good King Welceslas" of Bohemia went out on the feast of Stephen, when the snow lay on ground, yada yada yada ...

And so it goes.
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Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmastide: Day 1 (Nativity)

“On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree.”

The period known as Christmastide begins with the Feast of the Nativity itself; specifically, with the evening of this first day, through the morning of the Feast of the Epiphany. And so the first day of Christmas is December 25-26, and the season ends with Twelfth Night on January 5-6.

By tomorrow, you will stop hearing Christmas music on some radio stations, but around Chez Alexandre, whether here or on the road, as well as here at man with black hat, the Christmas season is just beginning. Most of us are familiar with the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas," and the significance of the symbolism therein. But for those who are not...

Twelve Drummers Drumming refers to the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

Eleven Pipers Piping refers to the eleven faithful apostles

Ten Lords A-leaping refers to the ten commandments

Nine Ladies Dancing refers to the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit

Eight Maids A-milking refers to the eight beatitudes

Seven Swans A-swimming refers to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, and/or the seven sacraments

Six Geese A-laying refers to the six days of creation

Five Golden Rings refers to the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.

Four Calling Birds refers to the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists.

Three French Hens refers to Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues.

Two Turtle Doves refers to the Old and New Testaments.

One Partridge in a Pear Tree refers to Christ on Earth being crucified upon a tree.

True Love refers to God, who sent his only son to us.

[NOTA BENE: The use of this song as a "secret catechism" for children, employed by Catholics persecuted in post-Reformation England, is a matter of some dispute, as pointed out in this article from Snopes.com. Leave it to them to bring the party down.]

Now then (and this should be a treat for those of you new to us), we present the continuation of a venerable man with black hat tradition.

For more than thirty years, PNC Bank, one of the largest banking institutions in the United States, has calculated the prices of the twelve gifts from the classic carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” The result is the PNC Christmas Price Index, originally the brainchild of Jim Dunigan, the former managing executive of investments with PNC Wealth Management. The result is a unique and whimsical holiday tradition that makes learning about the economy fun.

With his subsequent departure, Mr Dunigan's legacy nonetheless presses on.

This year, rather than just one video giving the run-down, we are treated to a different one for each day on the website. But you can get the short version from a spokesman for PNC, thanks to the Fox affiliate in Cleveland. The cost of this year's CPI rose by a mere 0.6 percent to $34,558.65, due to the cost increases for the Pear Tree, the increased demand for Golden Rings and wage increases for the Lords-a-Leaping.

All that being said (and that which is said to follow), from all of us at Chez Alexandre, we wish you a most blessed Christmastide, and a prosperous New Year.

Go forth and spread joy!

(Animated illustrations for the Twelve Days of Christmas are courtesy of the Christian Resource Institute, under the authorship of Dennis Bratcher, and which are used here without permission or shame.)
 

Gaudete!



Rejoice, rejoice!
Christ is born
Of the Virgin Mary –
Rejoice!


The time of grace has come
What we have wished for,
Songs of joy
Let us give back faithfully.

God has become man,
Nature marveling,
The world has been renewed
By Christ reigning.

The closed gate of Ezekiel
Is passed through,
Whence the light is raised,
Salvation is found.

Therefore, let our preaching
Now sing in brightness
Let it give praise to the Lord:
Greeting to our King.

Steeleye Span's 'Gaudete', taken from the 'World Tour' 35th Anniversary DVD.
 

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Advent IV: Love

Reading
1 Corinthians 4:1-2


Brethren: Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ and the dispensers of the mysteries of God. Here now it is required among the dispensers that a man be found faithful. R. Thanks be to God.

Oration

V. O Lord, hear our prayer.
R. And let our cry come unto Thee.
V. Let us pray ...

O Lord, we beseech Thee, stir up Thy power, and come, and with great might succor us: that by the help of Thy grace that which is hindered by our sins may be hastened by Thy merciful forgiveness: Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end.

R. Amen.
 

Novena for Christ-Mass: The Vigil

Mary is now with child, awaiting birth, and Joseph is full of expectancy as he enters the city of his own family. He searched for a place for the birth of him to whom heaven and earth belonged. Could it be that the Creator would not find room in his own creation? Certainly, thought Joseph, there would be room in the village inn. There was room for the rich; there was room for those who were clothed in soft garments; there was room for everyone who had a tip to give to the innkeeper.

But when finally the scrolls of history are completed down to the last word of time, the saddest line of all will be: "There was no room in the inn." No room in the inn, but there was room in the stable. The inn was the gathering place of public opinion, the focal point of the world's moods, the rendezvous of the worldly, the rallying place of the popular and the successful. But there's no room in the place where the world gathers. The stable is a place for outcasts, the ignored and the forgotten. The world might have expected the Son of God to be born in an inn; a stable would certainly be the last place in the world where one would look for him.

The lesson is: divinity is always where you least expect to find it. So the Son of God made man is invited to enter into his own world through a back door.

- Archbishop Fulton Sheen (1895-1979)

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Octavo Kalendas Januarii
   The Eighth of the Calends of January


Anno a creatione mundi,
   The year from the creation of the world,
quando in principio Deus creavit caelum et terram,
   when in the beginning God created heaven and earth,
quinquies millesimo centesimo nonagesimo nono;
   five thousand one hundred and ninety-nine:
a diluvio vero,
   from the deluge,
anno bis millesimo nongentesimo quinquagesimo septimo;
   the year two thousand nine hundred and fifty-seven:
a nativitate Abrahae,
   from the birth of Abraham,
anno bis millesimo quintodecimo;
   the year two thousand and fifteen:
a Moyse et egressu populi Israel de Aegypto,
   from Moses and the going out of the people of Israel from Egypt,
anno millesimo quingentesimo decimo;
   the year one thousand five hundred and ten:
ab unctione David in regem,
   from David's being anointed King,
anno millesimo trigesimo secundo;
   the year one thousand and thirty-two:
Hebdomada sexagesima quinta,
   in the sixty-fifth week
juxta Danielis prophetiam;
   according to the prophecy of Daniel:
Olympiade centesima nonagesima quarta;
   in the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad:
ab urbe Roma condita,
   from the building of the city of Rome,
anno septingentesimo quinquagesimo secundo;
   the year seven hundred and fifty-two:
anno Imperii Octaviani Augusti quadragesimo secundo;
   in the forty-second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus:
toto Orbe in pace composito,
   the whole world being in peace:
sexta mundi aetate,
   in the sixth age of the world:
Jesus Christus,
   Jesus Christ,
aeternus Deus aeternique Patris Filius,
   the eternal God, and Son of the eternal Father,
mundum volens adventu suo piissimo consecrare,
   wishing to consecrate this world by his most merciful coming,
de Spiritu Sancto conceptus,
   being conceived of the Holy Ghost,
novemque post conceptionem decursis mensibus,
   and nine months since his conception having passed,
in Bethlehem Judae nascitur ex Maria Virgine
   in Bethlehem of Juda is born of the Virgin Mary,
factus homo:
   being made man:
NATIVITAS DOMINI NOSTRI JESU CHRISTI
   THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
SECUNDUM CARNEM!
   ACCORDING TO THE FLESH!

- The Proclamation of Christmas, from the Roman Mass

This entire series can be found at the "xmasnovena2017” tag.
 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Novena for Christ-Mass: O Emmanuel

Veni, Veni Emmanuel!
    O come, o come, Emmanuel,
Captivum solve Israel!
    And ransom captive Israel,
Qui gemit in exsilio,
    That mourns in lonely exile here,
Privatus Dei Filio.
    Until the Son of God appear.


Isaiah had prophesied, “The Lord himself will give you this sign: the Virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.” (7:14). “Emmanuel” means “God is with us.”

“O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.”

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Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel
    Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Nascetur pro te, Israel.
    Shall come to thee, O Israel.


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Z

This entire series can be found in progress at the "xmasnovena2017” tag.
(Won't be long now ...)
 

Friday, December 22, 2017

Novena for Christ-Mass: O Rex Gentium

Veni, Veni, Rex gentium,
    O come, Desire of nations, bind,
veni, Redemptor omnium,
    In one the hearts of all mankind;
Ut salvas tuos famulos
    Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
Peccati sibi conscios.
    And be Thyself our King of peace.


Isaiah had prophesied, “For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.” (9:5), and “He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” (2:4)

“O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.”

+    +    +

Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel
    Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Nascetur pro te, Israel.
    Shall come to thee, O Israel.


+    +    +

Z

This entire series can be found in progress at the "xmasnovena2017” tag.
 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Novena for Christ-Mass: O Oriens

Veni, Veni, O Oriens!
    O come, Thou Dayspring,
        come and cheer,
Solare nos adveniens,
    Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Noctis depelle nebulas,
    Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
Dirasque noctis tenebras.
    And death's dark shadows put to flight.


Isaiah had prophesied, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shown.” (9:1).

“O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.”

+    +    +

Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel
    Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Nascetur pro te, Israel.
    Shall come to thee, O Israel.


+    +    +

Z

This entire series can be found in progress at the "xmasnovena2017” tag.
 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Novena for Christ-Mass: O Clavis David

Veni, Clavis Davidica,
    O come, thou Key of David, come,
Regna reclude caelica,
    And open wide our heavenly home;
Fac iter tutum superum,
    Make safe the way that leads on high,
Et claude vias inferum.
    And close the path to misery.


Isaiah had prophesied, “I will place the Key of the House of David on His shoulder; when he opens, no one will shut, when he shuts, no one will open.” (22:22), and “His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, from David’s throne, and over His kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever.” (9:6).

“O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.”

+    +    +

Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel
    Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Nascetur pro te, Israel.
    Shall come to thee, O Israel.


+    +    +

Z

This entire series can be found in progress at the "xmasnovena2017” tag.
 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Novena for Christ-Mass: O Radix Jesse

Veni, O Jesse virgula,
    O come, thou Rod of Jesse's stem,
Ex hostis tuos ungula,
    From every foe deliver them.
De specu tuos tartari
    That trust thy mighty power to save,
Educ et antro barathri.
    And give them vict'ry o'er the grave.


Isaiah had prophesied, “But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” (11:1), and “On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.” (11:10). Remember also that Jesse was the father of King David, and Micah had prophesied that the Messiah would be of the house and lineage of David and be born in David’s city, Bethlehem (Micah 5:1).

“O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.”

+    +    +

Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel
    Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Nascetur pro te, Israel.
    Shall come to thee, O Israel.


+    +    +

Z

This entire series can be found in progress at the "xmasnovena2017” tag.
 

Monday, December 18, 2017

Novena for Christ-Mass: O Adonai

Veni, Veni Adonai!
    O come, O come, thou Lord of might,
Qui populo in Sinai
    Who to Thy tribes on Sinai's height
Legem dedisti vertice,
    In ancient times didst give the law
In Majestate gloriae.
    In cloud and majesty, and awe.


Isaiah had prophesied, “But He shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.” (11:4-5); and “Indeed the Lord will be there with us, majestic; yes the Lord our judge, the Lord our lawgiver, the Lord our king, he it is who will save us.” (33:22).

“O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.”

+    +    +

Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel
    Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Nascetur pro te, Israel.
    Shall come to thee, O Israel.


+    +    +

Z

This entire series can be found in progress at the "xmasnovena2017” tag.
 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Advent III: Joy

Reading (Philippians 4:4-5)

Brethren, rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice: let your modesty be known to all men: for the Lord is nigh. R. Thanks be to God.

Oration

V. O Lord, hear our prayer.
R. And let our cry come unto Thee.
V. Let us pray ...

Incline Thine ear, we beseech Thee, O Lord, to our petitions: and, by the grace of Thy visitation, enlighten the darkness of our minds. Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end.

R. Amen.
 

Novena for Christ-Mass: O Sapientia

Veni, O Sapientia,
    O come, O Wisdom from on high,
Quae hic disponis omnia,
    who orders all things mightily,
Veni, viam prudentiae
    to us the path of knowledge show,
Ut doceas et gloriae.
    and teach us in her ways to go.


Isaiah had prophesied, “The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.” (11:2-3), and “Wonderful is His counsel and great is His wisdom.” (28:29).

“O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation.”

+    +    +

Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel
    Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Nascetur pro te, Israel.
    Shall come to thee, O Israel.


+    +    +

(Commentary for this series of the “O Antiphons” is authored by Father William Saunders, a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, with copyright 2003 from the Arlington Catholic Herald. Images in the upper right-hand corner are created by "Cyndi" at EmbeddedFaith.com. The works of both are used in this series without permission or shame.)

Z <-- This is the link to one of a series of commentaries on the O Antiphons, by Father John Zuhlsdorf. They will appear at the end of each installment in this series, all of which can be found at the "xmasnovena2017” tag.
 

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Novena for Christ-Mass: Prelude

In a nation where eighty percent of the population is Catholic, Christmas starts early. It has to. After all, you cannot have a feast like Christmas without it being preceded by a novena. That's when you get up to attend Mass just before dawn for nine days before the big day. In the Philippines, it is known as “Simbang Gabi” which is Tagalog for “evening Mass.” It is also known as “Misa de Gallo” which is Spanish for “Rooster’s Mass.”

So why is this series of Masses held in the morning and not the evening, as is customary with Masses for a Christmas novena? The answer can be traced to the early colonial days, when the people would be exhausted from working in the fields all day for their Spanish overlords. The priests and friars who tended to their spiritual needs availed themselves of the people's desire to start the day early, ahead of the tropical heat, and moved the customary Mass and devotion to the early morning, before dawn. It must be with a sense of irony that the Archdiocese of Manila saw fit in recent years, to introduce liturgical norms for the novena, in the form of celebrating Simbang Gabi in the evenings. At first this was due to the limitations imposed by curfews during the years of martial law under President Marcos. More recently, it has accommodated office professionals who can more easily attend after work than before.

The popular decoration for Christmas in the Philippines is the “parol” (pronounced “pah-ROLL” with a rolling "r", from the Spanish word for lantern, "farol"), which is as common there as the Christmas tree is here in the States. This star-shaped motif is a cross between a Chinese lantern and the Mexican piñata. It is lit from within; traditionally with candlelights mounted inside, but in the last century with electric lights. They are typically two to three feet wide, but if you go to such renowned events as the Fiesta in San Fernando, Pampanga (north of Metro Manila), there is a huge parade to celebrate the beginning -- no, not of Christmas, but of the novena!

Traditional parols are made with bamboo sticks and rice paper. If you go to the site known as “MyParol.com” you can learn to make one, or even order a kit. Better yet, if you can't wait for delivery, simply read the instructions and find what you need at an arts and crafts store. You could have it done next weekend.

Closer to home, at Chez Alexandre, we have a very colorful parol gracing the front door, one that Sal brought back from the Philippines. It is of the modern variety, made with wire and a type of seashell known as capiz, and illuminated with elaborate flashing lights. The rest of the decorations will follow, but we had to start out on the right foot -- or, should we say, in the right light?

Now, back to that novena thing.

We here at man with black hat have an annual tradition of honoring the “O Antiphons” the seven chants which introduce the Vesperal Canticle (the “Magnificat”) in the Divine Office. Most people hear paraphrases of them in the hymn "O Come O Come Emmanuel," but they were originally chanted one verse a day, ending with the day before the Vigil. Over time, our annual feature has evolved into its present form, as a comprehensive aid to daily devotion. For just five minutes of viewing during a quiet time in the day, one may contemplate the coming of the God-made-man. The video clips for this unique series are provided by the YouTube channel of francisxcc entitled “The Splendor of Truth.”



As an added bonus, we will provide links for each Antiphon to Father John Zuhlsdorf's famous commentaries on the same, the link for which will be indicated by the letter “Z” at the bottom of each entry.

They will publish at six in the morning, eastern USA time, beginning tomorrow. Stay tuned ...

[NOTA BENE: Regarding a reference in the first video, a "barangay" is a Tagalog word for "village" -- in modern usage, a municipality within a city; roughly corresponding to "barrio" in Spanish, "berg" in German" or "borough" in English. The closest equivalent we have in the United States is that of New York City, which is divided into five boroughs -- Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island..]
 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Keeping the “Ch” in “Chanukkah” 2017

Yesterday at sundown marked the beginning of the Jewish Festival of Lights, known as Chanukkah (also rendered as Hanukkah, and as חנוכה), which commemorates the re-dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, following the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd century BC. It is observed for eight nights, as a reminder of the miracle of one night's supply of oil for the lamps lasting for eight, until a fresh supply could be obtained.

Around the turn of this century, the director of communications at my agency was a devout Jewish woman, who invited all the staff to her house in the country for a holiday celebration. A highlight of the affair was her presentation with her grandchildren, as she told them of the story of Chanukkah. As the rest of us Gentiles watched, she would lead the children in the Hebrew chant for the occasion: “Blessed art Thou, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who sanctified us by His commandments, and has commanded us to kindle the lights of Chanukkah ...” While others stood around watching in varying degrees of perplexity, I found myself singing with the children ... well, maybe sort of following along.

I turned to my son: "Does this sound familiar, like what you hear in the Divine Liturgy?" He nodded, as I continued. "This is where we get the Byzantine chant, and the Gregorian chant. It came to us from the Jews." His eyes lit up, as he said "Ahhhh ..." as if to indicate how he totally got it.

A comedian named Adam Sandler first introduced this holiday classic on NBC's Saturday Night Live. The song gives a list of famous celebrities from various walks of life who are Jewish: “Put on your yarmulke, here comes Hanukkah / It's so much funukkah, to celebrate Hanukkah / Hanukkah is the Festival of Lights / Instead of one day of presents, we get eight crazy nights!”

There's more where that came from.

This is an original work by Matisyahu. “Miracle” is produced by Dr Luke protégé Kool Kojak (Flo Rida, Katy Perry, Ke$ha), and is drenched in a joyful spirit, with chiming synths, bouncing beats, and an irresistible chorus. And ice skating. (A totally awesome a cappella rendition can be found here.)

There are so many Christmas songs out there. I wanted to give the Jewish kids something to be proud of. We've got Adam Sandler's song, which is hilarious, but I wanted to try to get across some of the depth and spirituality inherent in the holiday in a fun, celebratory song. My boy Kojak was in town so at the last minute we went into the studio in the spirit of miracles and underdogs and this is what we came up with. Happy Hannukah!

Matisyahu can be found on Facebook, and followed on Twitter.

On a more serious note, Charlie Harare explains the origins of Chanukkah, and its meaning in daily life from a Jewish point of view, which is only reasonable as this is a Jewish holiday. This begs the question ...

What is there for a Catholic in this message, and why does yours truly share it every year at this time?

As a Catholic, one believes that while the Jewish people were chosen by God under the Old Covenant, that from among their number would come as the Messiah, “He came to his own home, and his own people received him not.” (John 1:11) From this, a subset of traditionalist Catholics claim that Judaism is a "false religion." They will cite the distinction between the Hebraic Judaism of the Old Testament, and the Talmudic Judaism introduced after the destruction of the Temple, accompanied by the loss of their priesthood and the practice of offering sacrifice. Some will even maintain that those who claim to be Jewish are not descendants of the original Jews up to the time of Christ.

If that were not enough, one such individual claims that Chanukkah is a hoax, a fabricated story, when in fact the account of the Maccabean Revolt is found in the First and Second Books of Maccabees. The Jews do not include these books in the Tanakh, or Jewish bible, nor are they found among the books of the Protestant Old Testament, but they are considered to be of divine inspiration by both Catholic and Orthodox Christians. One might even say, by extension, that it was the Catholic Church that saved Chanukkah for the Jews.

In fact, someone actually did.

Jews know the fuller history of the holiday because Christians preserved the books that the Jews themselves lost. In a further twist, Jews in the Middle Ages encountered the story of the martyred mother and her seven sons anew in Christian literature and once again placed it in the time of the Maccabees.

It gets better.

As John tells us (John 10:22-23), “It was the feast of the Dedication at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon.” As we’ve seen, before Hanukkah became known as the Festival of Lights, it was known as the Feast of Dedication (1 Macc. 4:59). So there would be no question that this is the holiday being celebrated, even if John hadn’t added the clue that it was winter. And indeed, the NIV and other Protestant Bible translations acknowledge as much.

So not only is there is a case for the authenticity of the story, but more important, for the manner in which it is commemorated.

As Judaism is a sign of the Old Covenant, and Christ brought it to fulfillment in the New Covenant, to be a Catholic is to be, in effect, a fulfilled Jew. We therefore cannot rule out the possibility of something to be learned here. Judaism is not a false religion; it is an unfulfilled religion. It was -- indeed, it IS -- fulfilled in the coming of the Messiah, the Christ. As for the distinction between Hebraic and Talmudic Judaism, this only reinforces that point, as by rejecting the True Messiah, the proverbial vacuum that nature would abhor was filled by something else.

If you as a Catholic don't get that after watching this video, I can't explain it to you.
 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Lussinatt: The Vigil of Saint Lucy

There are a number of saints who are commemorated in December (other than Saint Nicholas). Whether by the accident of tradition, or by design, some of them have been awarded with a connection to the Christmastide celebration -- keeping in mind that this happens during the allegedly sackcloth-and-ashes season known as Advent.

Saint Lucy (283–304) received the crown of martyrdom during the Diocletian persecution. She is one of seven women aside from the Virgin Mary who appears in the Roman Canon. Her name is from the Latin word for "light," and she is remembered on the 13th day of December, the night before which was the longest of the year in the unreformed Julian calendar. As a result, various Germanic pagan feasts associated with the passing of darkness into light were appropriated by Christendom, and sanctified by this commemoration.

Natten går tunga fjät
    Night walks with a heavy step
rund gård och stuva;
    Round yard and hearth,
kring jord, som sol förlät,
    As the sun departs from earth,
skuggorna ruva.
    Shadows are brooding.
Då i vårt mörka hus,
    There in our dark house,
stiger med tända ljus,
    Walking with lit candles,
Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia!
    Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!
Då i vårt mörka hus,
    There in our dark house,
stiger med tända ljus,
    Walking with lit candles,
Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia!
    Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!


Saint Lucy is one of the few saints honored in the Lutheran tradition, and the eve of her feast is celebrated throughout Scandanavia, with a procession of young maids bearing candles, led by a chosen one with a lighted wreath on her head (as shown in the first video, a celebration in Mora, Sweden, in 2007). The carol Santa Lucia, sung by the girls in procession, was an old Neapolitan melody of the same name. The lyrics in Italian are the song of the boatmen of the waterfront district in Naples. The various Nordic languages (Swedish is featured here) sing of the light that overcomes the darkness.

The second video elaborates.

FOOTNOTE: By week's end, we begin the prayers and songs and stories of the Novena for the Christ-Mass, and continue after the solemnity with the commemoration of the Twelve Days, culminating in the Visit of the Three Kings, and the blessing of the doors to your homes. Please join us as we remember the fast, and celebrate the feast, for GOD IS WITH US, EMMANUEL!
 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Advent II: Peace

Reading
(Romans 15:4)


Brethren: Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. R. Thanks be to God.

Oration

V. O Lord, hear our prayer.
R. And let our cry come unto Thee.
V. Let us pray ...

Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to prepare the way of Thine only-begotten Son: that through His coming we mat attain to serve Thee with purified minds. Who liveth and reigneth, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end.

R. Amen.
 

Friday, December 08, 2017

A “Hail Mary Pass” for Advent

By now, your pastor has already taken all of you to task for being too celebratory during the Advent season, and not delaying your "holiday parties" until right after Christmas, when everybody is the hell out of town. It's time to set him straight, and I'm (the arrogant son of a b**** who is) just right for the job.

It is possible for Christmas carols, not only to be appropriate for the penitential season of Advent, but to never mention Christmas itself. And no, that does not include "Jingle Bells."

With the Incarnation, we begin the focal point of salvation history, its end being the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ, and His ascension into Glory. And while the whole of Christendom follows, what precedes that story is what helps us to prepare.

Angelus ad Virginem

… is a 13th century carol of unknown attribution, which tells of the angel appearing to the young virgin Mary. Christians in the West remember the eighth of December as the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (known in the East as "The Conception of Saint Anne").

It is easy to forget that, while the Gospel accounts tell of the annunciation, the feast itself honors her conception without the stain of sin, rendering her a worthy vessel, if a human one, for the God made man. There is no confusion here, but indeed, a clarification. It is not only the means to the end, but the end itself, by which we celebrate this feast.

1. Angelus ad virginem
    Subintrans in conclave.
Virginis formidinum
    Demulcens inquit "Ave."
Ave regina virginum,
Coeliteraeque dominum
    Concipies
    Et paries
    Intacta,
    Salutem hominum.
    Tu porta coeli facta
    Medella criminum.

2. Quomodo conciperem,
    quae virum non cognovi?
Qualiter infringerem,
    quae firma mente vovi?
"Spiritus sancti gratia
Perficiet haec omnia;
    Ne timaes,
    sed gaudeas,
    secura,
    quod castimonia
    Manebit in te pura
    Dei potentia.'

3. Ad haec virgo nobilis
    Respondens inquit ei;
Ancilla sum humilis
    Omnipotentis Dei.
Tibi coelesti nuntio,
Tanta secreti conscio,
    Consentiens
    Et cupiens
    Videre
    factum quod audio,
    Parata sum parere
    Dei consilio.

4. Angelus disparuit
    Etstatim puellaris
Uterus intumuit
    Vi partus salutaris.
Qui, circumdatus utero
Novem mensium numero,
    Hinc Exiit
    Et iniit
    Conflictum,
    Affigens humero
    Crucem, qua dedit ictum
    Hosti mortifero.

5. Eia Mater Domini,
    Quae pacem reddidisti
Angelis et homini,
    Cum Christum genuisti;
Tuem exora filium
Ut se nobis propitium
    Exhibeat,
    Et deleat
    Peccata;
    Praestans auxilium
    Vita frui beta
    Post hoc exsilium.



A translation is available for your convenience, although you may get the idea. But in case you don't, a Middle English version became popular by the 14th century. (The lyrics shown here are of one such version, while the video from the King's College Choir in Cambridge sings yet another. Such is the nature of the evolution of folk songs.)

Gabriel fram Heven-King
    Sent to the Maide sweete,
Broute hir blisful tiding
    And fair he gan hir greete:
"Heil be thu, ful of grace aright!
    For Godes Son, this Heven Light,
For mannes love
    Will man bicome
    And take
    Fles of thee,
    Maide bright,
Manken free for to make
    Of sen and devles might."


Now, didn't that help?

Nova! Nova! Ave Fit Ex Eva!

By the 14th century, a livelier tune arose in the British Isles, known as "Nova! Nova! Ave Fit Ex Eva!" This was not a Latin hymn, but was popularly sung in Middle English, with its dance-like melody giving way to playing of tambourines. Video recordings of the original melody are not easy to find, in favor of more contemporary arrangements. Thankfully, the Lumina Vocal Ensemble managed a live performance in 2011.

Nova, nova, Ave fit ex Eva.

Nova, nova. Nova, nova, Ave fit ex Eva.

Gabriel of high degree,
He came down from Trinity,
To Nazareth in Galilee.

Nova, nova …

I met a maiden in a place,
I kneeled down afore her face
And said, "Hail Mary, full of grace!"

Nova, nova …

When the maiden heard tell of this
She was full sore abashed y-wis
And weened that she had done amiss.

Nova, nova …

Then said the Angel, "Dread not thou,
For ye be conceived with great virtue,
Whose name shall be called Jesu".

Nova, nova …

"It is not yet six weeks agone
Since Elizabeth conceived John
As it was prophesied beforn."

Nova, nova …

Then said the maiden, "Verily,
I am your servant right truly,
Ecce, ancilla Domini!"

Nova, nova …


Its theology is explained thus:

the Virgin Mary is sometimes called the "new Eve". "Eve" in Latin is "Eva". The first word that the Angel Gabriel spoke to Mary at the Annunciation was "Ave", which is Eve backwards. This is just a coincidence of course, but many Medieval songs used this to illustrate how Mary "undid" what Eve had done. One song has this refrain:

Nova! Nova! Ave fit ex Eva! (News! News! “Ave” has been made from “Eve”!).

Thus, the obedience of Mary cured the disobedience of Eve.

And so, without any premature remembrance of the coming of the Savior, and albeit a time of penitence, our celebration of expectation continues.
 

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Father Nicholas: The REAL Santa Claus

When I was very young, some of my classmates would leave their shoes outside the bedroom door on the night of the fifth of December, so that Saint Nicholas would leave them treats.

We never did that at our house, but I did ask Mom how it was that Saint Nicholas got to be called Santa Claus. By this time I had already determined a connection between the two. But while my mother was salutatorian of her high school class -- there were about fifteen students at most, but hey, that's not the point -- she was not one to wear her erudition on her sleeve. So, rather than go into an entymological treatise on the subject, she simply told me: “Say ‘Santa Claus’ three times real fast.” That carried me over for at least a few years.

No good Catholic home is without an answer to the question of whether there is such a thing as Santa Claus. There is, but we are accustomed to the corruption of his real name, one that developed over the centuries. By the time devotion to Saint Nicholas reached Europe, he was known by different names. In the British Isles, he was known as "Father Christmas." In the Netherlands, he was known as "Sinterklaas." By the 19th century, periodicals such as Harper's Bazaar and promoters of a fountain beverage known as Coca-Cola had not only transformed the name, but the bright red costume with the white-fur trim, both of which we know today.

Whatever people call him, or however they depict him, the Bishop of Myra in the fourth century is a real person, and he presently dwells in Heaven with the Communion of Saints. Our Mother the Church celebrates his feast on the sixth of December, in both the East and the West.


VIDEO: A variation on a theme.

Nicholas was no lightweight. He was in attendance at the Council of Nicaea when the Arian heresy was being debated. At one point, he became so enraged with the Bishop Arius (whose errors were supported by the majority of bishops up to that time, remember), that he supposedly punched Arius in the nose.

That's right, kids, Jolly Olde Saint Nick cold-cocked a heretic! (Some accounts say that he merely slapped him, but that's so pansy, who'd believe it?)

Anyway, many of the bishops there, including the Emperor Constantine, were scandalized by the assault, and given their sympathies, had Nicholas thrown in the dungeon. That night, the Emperor had a dream where Nicholas appeared to him, adorned in his finest liturgical vesture, and holding the Book of the Gospels. Awakened with a fright, the Emperor summoned his guards, who joined him as he raced to the dungeon, to find Nicholas unchained, with ... you guessed it.

The story varies in certain details. Some accounts tell of Our Lord and Our Lady appearing to Nicholas in the dungeon. I heard the above account from an "Old Calendar" Russian Orthodox priest. It is also said that Nicholas, now restored to his rightful place in the council, slept through the rest of the proceedings.

I can't say I blame him.

At the little Byzantine Rite parish where my son learned the Faith, as it had been taught to his mother, the Feast of Saint Nicholas is a particular cause for celebration. He is the patron of Byzantine Catholics, and his image graces the iconostasis on the far left side as viewed from the assembly. There is a special hymn dedicated to him ...

O kto kto, Nikolaja l'ubit,
O kto kto, Nikolaju sluzit.
    Tomu svjatyj Nikolaj,
    Na vsjakij cas pomahaj.
    Nikolaj, Nikolaj!

O who loves Nicholas the Saintly,
O who loves Nicholas the Saintly.
    Him will Nicholas receive,
    and give help in time of need.
    Nicholas, Nicholas!

... and the children in the School of Religion program do a pageant in his honor every Sunday closest to the sixth of December. It culminates in the arrival of an elderly man with a long white beard, dressed in the robes of an Eastern bishop, with whom the children meet in much the same manner as they would his commercialized (and most inauthentic) counterpart.

Paul used to get special icon cookies to take home, much like the ones that appear in the photos, emblazoned with the words "O Holy Nicholas" in Slavonic. These unique gingerbread cookies are from a recipe which appears at the stnicholascenter.org website.

I dearly miss that little parish. It has changed over more than three decades. Several years ago, they completed a new and larger place of worship next to the original, one that emulates the style common to Eastern Europe. But with every successful building project they have -- the parish hall, the rectory -- the place seems a little less homey, a little larger than life. Still, the spirit of Saint Nicholas reminds them every year, of the things that are passed on, and that remain the same.

Now, enough of this self-indulgent soul-searching. Let's go bake some cookies already!